Epaulette Shark

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Description

The Epaulette Shark (Hemiscyllium Ocellatum) is a species of longtailed carpet shark found in shallow, tropical waters off Australia and New Guinea, and as far south as Sydney. They are found in shallow water to a maximum depth of 160 feet, and are often seen in water barely deep enough to cover their bodies, preferring tidal pools, coral flats, and stands of staghorn coral. Epaulette Shark are typically 27.5″ – 35.5″ inches long.

The Epaulette Shark name comes from the very large, white-margined black spot behind each pectoral fin, which are reminiscent of military epaulettes. The Epaulette Shark has a slender body with a short head and broad, paddle-shaped paired fins. The caudal peduncle (to which the tail fin is attached) comprises over half the shark’s length. Adults are light brown, with scattered darker spots and indistinct saddles, and juveniles have alternating light and dark bands over their body and fins, which break up as they mature.

Epaulette Sharks have nocturnal habits, and have evolved to cope with the severe night time oxygen depletion (hypoxia) in isolated tidal pools by increasing the blood supply to its brain and selectively shutting down non-essential neural functions. Rather than swim, Epaulette Sharks often “walk” by wriggling their bodies and pushing with their paired fins. The Epaulette Shark is an opportunistic predator of benthic crustaceans, worms, and small bony fish.  While searching for food, the Epaulette Shark sometimes turns over debris with its snout or thrusts its head into the sand, swallowing food items while expelling the sand grains through its gill slits. Epaulette Sharks are oviparous, with females depositing pairs of egg capsules around every 14 days from August to December. Due to their hardiness and small size, they are popular with both public and home aquaria.

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